Articles Posted in Divorce

Lawyers, of course, keep up with new rulings from the courts all the time to make certain they are up-to-date on the law in the areas where they practice. That’s important because, when you are working with the right Maryland divorce attorney, you have the benefit of a legal advocate who possesses a thorough, complete, and up-to-date knowledge of the law in this state.

Many court rulings, however, also have information that can be really useful for most anyone facing a particular circumstance, like going through a divorce. Take, as an example, this divorce case from Baltimore.

The wife filed for divorce in 2019 after 17 years of marriage. Each spouse accused the other of financial misconduct.

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One of the things that makes divorce different than many other legal matters is something fundamental to many marriages. For lots of people, marriage (and, by extension, divorce) is a place where the secular and the sacred meet… where man’s laws intersect with God’s laws. Whatever your religion teaches about marriage and/or divorce, it is vitally important, if you are going through a divorce in Maryland, to understand how the civil laws of Maryland will view your situation. To get the answers about these kinds of issues, as well all the other issues your divorce case presents, look to an experienced Maryland family law attorney, who can offer you customized advice based on your specific situation.

Last year, this blog discussed a case involving two Islamic couples divorcing in Maryland. Both that case and a much newer divorce case recently decided by the Court of Special Appeals are illustrative of the problems that can arise for these couples in terms of interpreting the agreements they made during their religious marriage.

If you are someone going through a Maryland divorce after having gone through an Islamic marriage process (or some other religious marriage process with similar procedures), the most important thing to understand is not how your religion views those marital processes, but how the Maryland courts will see them.

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A comedic TV commercial series features disgruntled car buyers hiding their identities behind masks and disguises. They are mortified because they found out, only after they made their purchase, that they ended up “paying too much” for their used car. There’s a little bit of a legal lesson in this, which is: be absolutely certain before you sign a contract on the bottom line because, once you do, it is generally very difficult to avoid the promises you made in that document. That’s true of a marital settlement agreement, as well, which is why you definitely should consult an experienced Maryland divorce attorney before signing one of those documents.

K.J. was a spouse whose divorce case was a clear example of “post-execution regret.” In 2011, with his marriage broken down, he signed a marital settlement agreement with his wife. One of the terms in that contract, “Paragraph 20,” stated that the husband would pay the wife 1/3 of any settlement or judgment he received from a personal injury lawsuit that was pending at the time of the divorce.

The injury case in question was not your ordinary case, though. It was a lawsuit arising from injuries the husband suffered in the Beirut barracks bombings of 1983, the defendant was the government of Iran, and the claim for damages was extremely large.

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Most contested divorces are fact-intensive. They revolve around who did or didn’t do something, when a spouse purchased an asset (and what assets were used to make that purchase,) the amount of money a spouse did or did not earn, and so forth. However, issues of law can also impact your divorce case, and a substantial change in the law can significantly influence how your divorce case is litigated. That’s one of the many places where having an experienced and diligent Maryland divorce attorney can benefit you, as your legal advocate will be up on the new laws and what you’ll need to succeed.

One of the bigger changes in Maryland law in 2020 was not something specific to divorce law. Maryland’s highest court, in a ruling related to a personal injury case about lead paint exposure, announced that Maryland was adopting a new standard for deciding whether or not expert testimony is admissible. That standard, called the Daubert standard (based upon the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals) lays out several criteria a judge should use to decide whether an expert’s evidence should be admitted or excluded.

At this point, you may find yourself thinking, what does this have to do with my divorce case? Aren’t experts usually just a part of criminal cases, malpractice cases and personal injury lawsuits?

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In a divorce where there are no minor children, possibly the biggest single thing that you’ll need to address is the marital home. One spouse may desire to stay in the home, but that can be challenging if the home isn’t paid off. Certainly, you don’t want to be liable for a mortgage loan securing a home that the court distributed to your ex-spouse. These things point out an important fact: in a divorce, it’s not just getting the assets you deserve, it also about escaping liabilities that you shouldn’t have. When it comes to doing these things, a skilled Maryland divorce attorney can help you protect yourself.

The courts, as we can see in a recent divorce case from Howard County, have substantial discretion in customizing an order dividing up a divorcing couple’s property and debts. The judge is free to award the marital home to one spouse but also to command that spouse, if the house is not paid off, to refinance or otherwise remove the other spouse’s name from the mortgage loan on the property.

So, what happens if s/he gets the house but then doesn’t refinance it? Typically, the court will, within its order, provide specific instructions about the refinancing. The order will give her a deadline by which s/he has to get your name off the loan, and will state what happens if s/he doesn’t act or doesn’t get the task completed by the deadline.

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Finding out well after you’re divorced that your ex-spouse hid substantial marital wealth and assets during the divorce process is undeniably frustrating and infuriating. It is, however, also potentially the basis for legal action. Depending on the details of your divorce (such as whether you created a marital settlement agreement) and the kind of financial malfeasance in which your ex-spouse engaged, you may possibly be able to reopen your divorce or, alternately, you may be able to seek recovery based upon your spouse’s breach of your marital settlement agreement. To learn more about your options, speak to an experienced Maryland divorce attorney right away.

A recent case from Baltimore County offers a view into what a spouse can sometimes do in that kind of situation. In this case, the CEO of a candy equipment supplier and his wife divorced in 2006. A dozen years later, the wife asked the judge to vacate that 2006 divorce judgment.

The husband, according to the wife, had engaged in fraud, concealing certain marital assets during the negotiation of the couple’s property settlement agreement. That fraud, according to the wife, had the effect of altering those negotiations and the outcome of the agreement.

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Divorce and divorce-related legal cases often involve deep-seated emotions. They are cases that intertwine the coldly legal and the intensely personal. Those truths can sometimes lead your ex-spouse to try to bring into your case things that, while perhaps important to him personally, are not important legally to resolution of the issue that brought you into court. When that happens, you need the skill and knowledge of an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side to help you get those irrelevant things excluded from your case and, when necessary, placed under court seal.

E.O. was a Prince George’s County wife who had that kind of problem in her case. In 2018, E.O. and her husband received a divorce. The court also adjudicated issues of child custody, visitation, child support and alimony.

After the court issued the judgment of divorce, the spouses filed several post-judgment motions. On several of those, the husband included photographic “support” as attachments to his filings. Those photographs displayed dried blood stains within the couple’s home. The husband’s argument was that this blood was proof that E.O. had attempted to perform an “at-home abortion,” that this pregnancy and abortion were proof of E.O.’s adultery.

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There are an absolutely enormous number of reasons why having a skilled family law attorney representing you is better than going it alone. You can probably think of a few… or maybe several. One of the ones that may not have occurred to you is when you have a sudden emergency that prevents you from attending your regularly scheduled court hearing. If you have no attorney and you no-show, the results can be disastrous, as a recent case from Montgomery County demonstrated. On the other hand, a skilled attorney who is representing you will know the best way to go about notifying the court of your emergency and taking other essential action on your behalf, such as requesting a continuance and a rescheduled future date for the hearing, thereby saving you from the disaster of having no one present to speak for you.

S.T. and M.L., the couple in the Montgomery County case, divorced in 2013. They agreed to a voluntary separation and property settlement agreement that dictated that the husband make several payments each month. After the husband allegedly failed to make certain required payments, the wife went back to court in 2018 seeking an order holding the husband in contempt.

In late December 2018, the spouses went before a magistrate and had a merits hearing. (To give you a little background about Maryland court procedure, certain cases go before a magistrate before a judge considers them. A magistrate will hear evidence and will file a “report” in which he/she makes findings of fact and also makes a recommendation to the judge.)

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Sometimes, people assume that all of the potential complications and challenges faced by long-term committed same-sex couples ended when the U.S. Supreme Court made its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015 that established marriage equality in all 50 states. That, of course, is far from always being true. If you’re a same-sex couple — especially if you’re a same-sex couple seeking a divorce –- there are still many potential hurdles that may be in your way. If you and your partner entered into a civil union and not a marriage, those hurdles can be even more numerous. However, with the help of an experienced Maryland family law attorney, you can get the divorce you need, whether yours was a civil union or marriage, and whether it happened in Maryland or out of state.

M.R. and S.S. were a gay couple who faced some of those exact hurdles in their divorce case recently. The men entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2003. They eventually moved to Montgomery County but, even after same-sex marriage became legal in Maryland in 2013, they never married.

By 2018, the relationship had broken down and S.S. filed for divorce in Montgomery County. S.S. sought as part of his divorce action, an award of alimony, an award of child support, property division (including a monetary award,) along with custody of the couple’s two children.

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You’ve probably signed various contractual documents in your life, including employment agreements, leases and mortgages. When reviewing those contracts, you may have taken great care to check over every paragraph before you signed and you may have sought legal advice, as well. As you’re going through the divorce process, it is important to approach a marital settlement agreement or a consent amendment in much the same way. You should engage in just as much care and caution before signing one of those as you would with, say, a contract for purchase of a house, because the agreement is just as binding and potentially just as impactful (if not more so.) To make sure that the agreement you ultimately sign is one that is fair to you, there are certain steps you should take. Start with retaining and consulting a skilled Maryland family law attorney before you sign anything.

J.S. and N.E. was a couple embroiled in litigation over an agreement signed after their divorce was finalized. Neither spouse was happy with their divorce judgment so, a few days after the entry of the judgment, the husband contacted the wife about making some modifications. Additionally, the husband proposed that the two ex-spouses work out those changes “without their respective attorneys’ involvement.”

An offer like this often should give you pause. If your spouse is proposing to modify your divorce judgment and making a point to do that without any attorneys involved, there is a distinct possibility that he is making that proposal because he believes that excluding counsel will give him an advantage in the final outcome.

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